In this guide we will let you know how to spot the symptoms of worms in dogs.
Giving you advice on the difference types of worms dogs can catch, and the best ways in which to treat and prevent them.
Worms in dogs are a sad fact of life.
However well looked after your Lab is, wherever he is walked, whoever he sees, they are pretty much unavoidable.
Therefore controlling them is a very important part of keeping your Labrador healthy.
Symptoms Of Worms In Dogs
Dogs do not show symptoms of worms until the level of infestation builds up considerably. A dog can have quite high levels of intestinal worm infestation without you seeing any evidence at all.
However, there are a few symptoms of worms in dogs that could mean that your dog is suffering including:
- Loose stools
- Blood in stools
- White worms in poop
- Swollen Stomach
- Loss of appetite
- Increased appetite
- Skin problems
- Dry coat
- Bottom ‘scooting’
These symptoms do not all point to the same variety of worms. Take a look at the section on types of dog worms below to find out more.
Signs are not always there either, and you may not be aware of the problem until the dog begins to lose condition and weight.
This is why you need to be pro-active about worming.
Whether or not your Labrador has intestinal worms right now, depends upon a number of factors.
Does My Dog Have Worms?
There are a number of different ways that dogs can get these unpleasant parasites.
Puppies get worms from their mothers. Adult dogs get worms from licking other dogs’ bottoms or faeces, or through fleas.
Some species of worm can even be caught by eating slugs or snails.
Worms, are everywhere.
Dog Worms In New Puppies
You should assume that all puppies have roundworms, passed to them by their mother either when in their uterus or through their milk.
Your breeder should have treated your new pup several times since she was born, and you should continue with regular treatments as advised by your veterinarian at their initial 8 week checkup.
Fleas & Dog Worms
If you have recently had to treat your dog for fleas, you should worm him as well. This is because some species of worm can be transmitted by fleas.
Raw Fed Dog Worms
If your dog is regularly fed on raw rabbit you should worm him every few weeks. Tapeworms from rabbits can infect dogs and the eggs are often present in the rabbit carcass even after careful removal of the intestines.
New feed your dog rabbit guts for the same reason. Regular worming for tapeworm ensures that there is no build up of these unpleasant parasites.
Worms In Dogs Who Eat Snails
If your dog likes to eat snails or slugs, and quite a few Labs do, he may have been exposed to lung worm. If left untreated lungworm can be fatal, so it is important to be aware of the possibility of infection.
We will look at this more below.
Dog Worm Types
There are a variety of different dog worm types.
The two main types of parasitic worm which affect dogs in the UK are tapeworms and roundworms.
Tapeworms In Dogs
Long, flat and segmented tapeworms live in your dog’s intestines. The most common way that tapeworms are transmitted to dogs is through fleas that have eaten them.
If your dog has had fleas recently, then they may well have tapeworms.
These nasty parasites can grow up to 6 inches long and dropped segments of them can be found in your dog’s fur around their anus or in their poop. These are around the size of a grain of rice.
Symptoms of Tapeworms
Signs of tapeworms include white flecks in your dogs fur around the tail base, loss of appetite and rapid weight loss.
Tapeworms do not respond to most worming tablets. If your dog has been diagnosed as having tapeworms, then follow your veterinarian’s advice on which brand of wormer to administer. Adult dogs are susceptible to tapeworm infection throughout their lives, and should ideally be treated for these regularly as a part of their routine care.
Roundworms In Dogs
Smooth threadlike roundworms live in the intestines and can grow up to 6 inches in length. Most puppies, even in the best kept kennels, are born with them. They need to be diligently wormed for the first few weeks and months of their lives to stay clear of them.
This is because the worm eggs as passed in the puppies’ poop, and can reinvest them. Roundworm eggs are numerous and can live in the soil for years, waiting to reinfect your dog into adulthood.
The worm eggs hatch into larvae, which move to the dog’s lungs. The larvae are coughed up and swallowed, where they live into adulthood.
Symptoms of Roundworms
Puppies with roundworms can have a swollen stomach giving them a pot-bellied look. They can also have worms or blood in their poop, or suffer from vomiting.
However, roundworms may cause no symptoms at all, especially at lower levels, which is why regular worming is important regardless of the signs.
In severe untreated cases of roundworms, it is possible for the instal blockage to result in the dog’s death.
Roundworm can be treated using over the counter wormers, and is effective in killing worms currently living in your dog’s intestinal tract. It is vital to worm regularly, as reinfection is likely.
Hookworms In Dogs
Living in the small intestine, hookworms are tiny thin worms that hook onto their hosts and suck their blood.
There are a few ways that hookworms can be caught. They are can given to the pup through mother in utero, or by drinking her milk, or picked up from another dog’s poop.
Symptoms of Hookworms
Hookworms are very dangerous for puppies, with symptoms including coughing, lethargy, loss of appetite, weight loss, blood in stools and diarrhea. They can cause a dog;s bowel to bleed where they have hooked into it, resulting in blood in their poop and even anemia.
You will not see signs of hookworms in your dog or puppy’s poop, but your vet will be able to diagnose them in a stool sample under a microscope.
Hookworms are usually cured with two thorough rounds of worming medication, as advised by your vet.
Heartworms In Dogs
It is a serious problem in the USA and parts Europe as it is spread by mosquitos, however cases in the UK are rare due to the cooler climate.
They can grow up to 14 inches long and are potentially fatal if untreated, causing heart and clotting problems in their hosts.
Symptoms of Heartworm
Heartworm in dogs is very hard to detect. In order to confirm a case of heart worm, your veterinarian will have to take a blood sample from your dog for testing.
Heart worm treatment is available through veterinarians only. Speak to your local vet about the heartworm risk in your area, and find out what they would recommend as a preventative.
Whipworms In Dogs
Whipworms are named for their shape, which is a long thread with one end enlarged.
They are harder to diagnose as they do not lay as many eggs. You are unlikely to see signs of whipworm in your dog’s poop, and the vet may even need several samples to find clear examples.
Whipworms take up residence in your dog’s large intestine.
Symptoms of Whipworm
Symptoms of whipworm in dogs include dramatic weight loss, and mucous in their poop.
Whipworm is the trickiest of the worms to eliminate from your dog, however it is possible given the correct course of worming treatment from your vet. Heartwormers will often also combat whipworm.
Lungworm In Dogs
Lungworm is an unpleasant creature which takes up residence inside the slugs and snails that live in your back yard or along your favorite walk.
When a dog eats an infected slug or nail, he in turn become infected. Some Labradors eat slugs and snails deliberately, but in many cases smaller slugs are consumed accidentally along with some other ‘delight’ that your dog picked up and swallowed outdoors.
There is no clear cut way of identifying a lungworm infection by yourself. Infected dogs may have a wide range of vague symptoms including behavioural changes, difficulty breathing, lethargy or sickness, and poor blood clotting.
If you think your dog seems out of sorts, especially if he is known to eat snails or pick up rubbish on your walks, then take him to your veterinarian for a checkup.
He will carry out some tests and treat your dog as appropriate.
If your dog does eat snails or slugs, then make sure that your regular wormer is one which is effective against lungworm, as many tapeworm varieties are not.
Fenbendazole (usually sold as Panacur) is an effective paste or tablet, provided you follow the correct dosage and repeat for the recommended number of days.
There are also spot-on treatments, which are applied to the back of the dog’s neck.
With lungworm, contacting your vet is very important. It is more common in some areas than others, and your vet will be able to test your dog and let you know if you live in a high risk zone.
If this is your first dog, do consult your veterinarian regarding worming. He or she will be able to advise you on the best treatment for your Labrador.
They will have a recommended wormer they can sell you, however good wormers are not cheap and there are considerable savings to be had if you can find the same brand to buy in larger quantities online.
Most wormers come in tablet form, and you can buy specially designed treat pockets to hide them in if your Lab is reluctant to take his medicine. Puppy wormers often come in a paste form, which is much easier to administer.
How Often Should I Worm My Dog
How often you worm your dog will depend slightly upon the brand of wormer that you are using.
As a general rule, every three months is a sensible worming schedule, although your vet may advise more often if your dog is raw fed.
Worming tablets and liquids do not remain in the dog’s system, so although any worms in residence are normally killed with a single dose, the dog can be reinfected again very quickly.
Side Effects Of Worming
Most wormers are well tolerated by most dogs, although some will occasionally react by vomiting. Do consult your vet if you think your dog has had a reaction to a worming medicine.
Some wormers are also not safe for use in pregnancy, so if your female dog is having puppies then consult your vet before worming.
Can Humans Get Worms From Dogs
Roundworms can infect humans as well as dogs.
It is very important that you do not allow your puppy to lick your mouth, and that you supervise any children in contact with the puppy to keep them away from their faces.
Thorough hand washing after handling is also a sensible idea.
Children and immunocompromised adults should also be protected from contact with puppy poop, which may contain roundworm eggs.
Humans can also be infected with hookworms by walking barefoot, and by tapeworms which can be caught from your dogs.
Canine whipworms, lungworm and heartworm however do not affect humans.
Worms In Dogs
All Labradors will come into contact with worms, and you must be proactive with their prevention.
If you are at all unsure of how to proceed with protecting your pet from dog worms, then have a chat with your vet.
As always with health matters, they are your vest advisor and should be your first port of call.
No good veterinarian minds being asked about routine worming. If you have any concerns at all, a quick trip to the vet should put your mind at rest.
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website